Raw honey has been used as a remedy throughout history and has a variety of health benefits and medical uses. It’s even used in some hospitals as a treatment for wounds. Many of these health benefits are specific to raw, or unpasteurized, honey.
Most of the honey you find in grocery stores is pasteurized. The high heat kills unwanted yeast, can improve the color and texture, removes any crystallization, and extends the shelf life. However, many of the beneficial nutrients are also destroyed in the process.
Raw honey contains an array of plant chemicals that act as antioxidants. Some types of honey have as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help to protect your body from cell damage due to free radicals.
Free radicals contribute to the aging process and may also contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Research showsTrusted Source that antioxidant compounds in raw honey called polyphenols have anti-inflammatory effects that could be beneficial in protecting against a number of conditions associated with oxidative stress.
The raw version of honey can also contain bee pollen and bee propolis, which may have added benefits. A 2017 review of studiesTrusted Source suggested that raw honey may have potential protective effects for the respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and nervous systems, and even has potential in cancer treatment.
Raw honey’s nutrition content varies by its origin and other factors. Generally, one tablespoon or 21 grams of raw honey containsTrusted Source 64 calories and 17 grams of sugar. Raw honey also containsTrusted Source smaller amounts of the following micronutrients (or, vitamins and minerals):
- pantothenic acid
In addition, raw honey is a source of varying amounts of amino acids, enzymes, and other beneficial compounds.
ResearchTrusted Source has shown that the propolis in raw honey has antifungal and antibacterial propertiesTrusted Source.
The potential for both internal and topical treatments using raw honey is significant. Honey’s effectiveness as an antibacterial or antifungal varies depending on the honey, but some varieties are being studied for specific therapeutic uses such as against Candida-associated infections.
A 2018 review of studies found that honey has antimicrobial properties. A 2017 review of studiesTrusted Source also suggested that honey, propolis, and royal jelly may have potential health benefits for microbial inhibition and wound healing.
Keep in mind that the honey used in research settings is medical grade, meaning it’s inspected and sterile. It’s not a good idea to treat cuts with honey you buy from a store. Always speak with your doctor before using honey for any medical purposes.
Phytonutrients are compounds found in plants that help protect the plant from harm. For example, some keep insects away or shield the plant from ultraviolet radiation.
The phytonutrients in honey are responsibleTrusted Source for its antioxidant properties, as well as its antibacterial and antifungal power. They’re also thought to be the reason raw honey has shown immune-boosting and anticancer benefits. Heavy processing in regular honey can destroy these valuable nutrients.
Honey is sometimes used to treat digestive issues such as diarrhea, though research to show that it works is limited. It may have potential as a treatment for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria, though, a common cause of stomach ulcers.
Honey is an old sore throat remedy that soothes the ache and can help with coughs. Add it to hot tea with lemon when a cold virus hits.
A 2016 study also suggested that the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties are effective for helping a sore throat.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects can benefit many parts of the body, including brain health.
In addition to beneficial prebiotics and nutrients, raw honey can also carry harmful bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum. This is particularly dangerous for babies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source advise that honey should never be given to an infant younger than a year old.
Symptoms of botulism poisoning in infants may include:
- slow breathing
- sagging eyelids
- absence of gagging
- loss of head control
- paralysis that spreads downward
- poor feeding
- weak cry
In adults, symptoms can include an initial short period of diarrhea and vomiting, followed by constipation and more severe symptoms, such as blurred vision and muscle weakness. Speak with a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms after eating raw honey.
You’ll also want to avoid honey if you have an allergy to honey or bee pollen.
You’ll want to look for honey that says “raw” on the label or comes from a farm that can verify that it hasn’t been pasteurized. Honey comes in many varieties with labels like “natural,” “organic,” and “pure,” but none of those indicate that it’s raw.
Look for a label that says “raw” specifically and look out for any added ingredients like artificial sweeteners. Mainstream and organic grocery stores, health food stores, and farmer’s markets are all places to look for raw honey.
Honey doesn’t expire very easily but it can become contaminated in certain circumstances. Store honey in a tightly sealed container away from light and extreme temperatures.
After a while, your honey may start to crystallize. This is completely safe but can make it look grainy and sugary. You can warm it just slightly to melt the crystals, but know that higher temperatures can cook the honey, removing its raw properties and causing it to darken in color.
If your honey has changed color drastically or smells off, throw it out.